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ESKİŞEHİR

The city of "white gold"                             Population: 650,000

dory1Old name: Dorylaeum (Roman)

As recently as 2003 Eskişehir, the Western Anatolian town on the Porsuk river, was a large but unexciting town where it was surprisingly hard to find a decent place to eat, but which was anxiously awaiting the arrival of its new tram.

Ten years later it’s a bustling, vibrant, university town with wide pedestrianized boulevards, riverside walks, and what is certainly the finest public transport system outside of İstanbul and Ankara.

Much of the publicity has focused on the restoration of the old Odunpazarı part of town, but in reality almost all of the town centre looks a great deal more cheerful now than it used to. And the man largely credited with this transformation is three-times mayor Yılmaz Büyükerşen.

Modern Eskişehir is Turkey's fourth largest town, connected to İstanbul, Konya and Ankara by high-speed train.

Backstory

With a name like Eskişehir (Old Town), this really ought to be a place to come in search of ancient monuments.

Certainly, the site has a lengthy history, dating back to the Hittites who are thought to have founded a settlement here around 1460 BC. A rather gruesome local legend recounts how the original settlers took three sets of sheep’s lungs and livers, and hung them from poles near the Porsuk river, in what is now the Odunpazarı area, and at Sarhöyük, which later became the city of Dorylaeum; since the set placed in the Odunpazarı area took the longest to rot, that was where they finally decided to pitch their tents. 

The Phrygians took over in c. 700 BC and established Dorylaeum, which passed in turn to the Celts and then the Romans. Sadly, however, there is almost nothing left of this old city, safe a few pretty column capitals borrowed to brighten up the Kurşunlu Cami and the somewhat neglected fragments lurking in the Archaeology Museum.dory2

Inevitably the Selçuks also had their day in the sun here, and founded the Alaaddin Cami in the process.

However, it was only in the late Ottoman period that the town started to boom, a process that accelerated towards the end of the 19th century with the arrival of the railway. At that time Eskişehir was a centre of the timber trade, exporting wood from the surrounding forests to pay off the Ottoman Empire’s debts, and old photographs show the carts that conveyed the wood gathered in front of what is now the Odunpazarı (Wood Market) Mahallesi, the hilly neighborhood where most of the Turks lived.

In recent years this area has been spruced up, and you can now spend several very enjoyable hours wandering round its cobbled streets with brightly-coloured Ottoman houses lined up on either side of them.

The two battles of Dorylaeum. During the Crusades two major battles were fought at Dorylaeum, probably close to what is now the small settlement of Karacahisar rather than on the site of Eskişehir itself. In the first of the fights in 1097 the armies of the First Crusade managed to drive back the Selçuks under their great leader, Kılıç Arslan.  In the second in 1147 the tables were turned and the the German contingent of the Second Crusade were decimated by the Selçuk leader, Mesud I. 

Around town

dory3Many of the old houses in the restored Odunpazarı area now accommodate small cafes, but it’s particularly worth looking out for the İsmail Alkılıçgil Fotoğraf Evi, which showcases the photographs of old Eskişehir taken by a Bulgarian-born photographer who lived here until his death, at the age of 75, in 2003.

Immediately across the road the Hafiz Ahmet Efendi Konağı dates back to 1717, and is a great place to eat mantı (ravioli) in a secluded cobbled courtyard.

The Beylerbeyi Konağı, near the Kurşunlu Cami, houses the idiosyncratic collections of an ex-pharmacist, including a recreation of his shop and a dusty cupboard full of artificial limbs. Not exciting enough for you? It’s still worth dropping in anyway for a chance to see the interior of a typical old Eskişehirli home, with a spectacular wooden ceiling on the top floor.dory4

Even better, make sure you visit the Osmanlı Evi Restaurant (Tel: 0222-220 7600) which is housed in a beautiful old house, its wooden fittings attractively repainted in green and gold.

Focal point of the Odunpazarı district is the newly restored Kurşunlu Cami complex which dates back to 1525 and still retains its kitchens and library. There's a small collection of fine pieces made from luletaşı (meerschaum – “sea foam”) along with pictures of the mines in one of the buildings surrounding the mosque. ), Luletaşı is a porous stone, nicknamed "white gold", which is perfect for tobacco pipes. It's mined in villages around Eskişehir such as Kozlubel and Sepetci Köyü, which also calls itself Beyaz Altın (White Gold) in honour of the source of its wealth.

It’s also worth tracking down the Atlıhan, the 19th-century caravanserai where foresters from the surrounding villages used to come with their carts of timber and put up for the night before returning home again. This has also been restored and now houses lots of little craftshops, most of them selling items made from luletaşı. 

dory5On the edge of the Odunpazarı in the Abacı Konağı development a museum of modern glass art is housed inside a reconstructed Ottoman han. The upper floor contains the Kent Belleği Müzesi (City Memories Museum). It's less wordy than similar museums elsewhere but you may feel that you didn't really learn a great deal from it. 

But modern Eskişehir has much more to offer than just the Odunpazarı.

The most pleasant way to get to Köprübaşı, the town centre, from Odunpazarı is by walking along pedestrianized Hamamyolu Caddesi. In the 19th century this was the part of town where the Greek and Armenian communities lived, and old photos show a stream running along the road with little wooden bridges crossing it, and traders hawking such unlikely products as snow that had been compressed in wet sacks so that it would keep cold right through until August.

Unfortunately in 1922 at the end of the Turkish War of Independence the retreating Greek army set fire to this area so that it now looks unrelentingly modern. However, it’s still one of the liveliest parts of town, the stream corraled into a series of pools complete with fountains and statues alongside which Eskişehirlis stroll, eyeing up the many inviting delicatessens and ice-cream shops along the way.

At the Köprübaşı end of Hamamyolu Caddesi there are several hamams (Turkish baths), mainly for men, that take advantage of the local thermal water which gushes out of the ground at 55°C. This part of town was once called Sıcaksular (Hot Waters), and it was where the Roman and Byzantine rulers had their palaces.

Nothing now remains of these structures, so you should press on towards nearby Tepebaşı where the Porsuk Hotel is housed on a small island inside a fine example of First National Architecture. It boasts a magnificent view along the Porsuk river.dory6

Taking a leaf out of the Birmingham and Manchester school of urban revival, the river has now been cleaned up, banked in to prevent flooding, and given wide pedestrianized boulevards on either side. These are now lined with all sorts of places to eat and drink from simple nargile cafes to chi-chi restaurants, all of them crammed with happy locals.

dory7The Porsuk may not be an Amsterdam canal, but it’s still possible to take a ride in a glass-topped boat along it. Alternatively you can opt for a Venetian-style gondola. Both offer perfect ways to appreciate the many fine bridges that have sprung up in the last few years.

Sleeping

Cheaper hotels congregate at the Çarşı end of Hamamyolu Caddesi. There are others near the railway station. 

Abacı Konağı

Has Hotel Termal

Madame Tadia Otel

Uysal Otel

Despite its superficial modernity, a stay at the Uysal can be a bit Fawlty Towers-ish. But at least the prices are not too excessive.

Tel: 0222-221 4353, www.uysalotel.com.tr,Asarcıklı Caddesi No. 7, tram: Çarşı

dory8Transport info

There are regular buses to Eskişehir from İstanbul, Ankara and Afyon, as well as trains from İstanbul (Haydarpaşa station, currently drastically reduced in frequency) and Ankara.

The flashy Estram light rail system has two lines, one of them connecting the bus terminal with the town centre (Çarşı). Trams leave from in front of the otogar where there's a ticket booth; if it's closed, büfes inside the otogar also stock them. 

Day trip destinations

Bilecik 

Frig Vadisi (Phrygian Valley)

Midas Şehri

Osmaneli

Seyitgazi

Söğüt

Sivrihisar

Read more: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-149214-the-city-of-white-gold-eskisehir.html

Read more about the new Eskişehirhttp://turkeyfromtheinside.com/blogbloggingaboutturkey/entry/5-5-march-2011-the-new-eskehr-.html

 

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